John Wick Chapter 2

Keanu Reeves is often derided for his acting skills. Phrases such as ‘wooden’ and ‘uninspiring’ are usually thrown about by critics. He’s had the last laugh with a catalogue of hits to his credit. The Matrix films to ‘Speed’ and the ‘Bill and Ted’ movies have proven his popularity with audiences. He may not have won many awards but his determination to persevere against a storm of criticism is to be admired. ‘John Wick Chapter 2’ will probably face the same onslaught although it underscores his persona and sure to further cement his place in action infamy.

John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is a former assassin trying to live a normal life. Sadly ‘normal’ isn’t a word frequently crossing his path. With a litany of villains on his doorstep, he is continually pulled into another wicked crime. When forced to perform an assassination on a rival crime-lord, hell is leashed upon Wick’s world. Faced with a bounty on his head, he tries to flee a cabal of criminals all wanting to receive a fast pay-day. With his skills his most potent weapons, Wick fights to the last to restore order to his wayward life.

‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ succeeds due to its’ focus. It presents itself as an explosive action flick and delivers. It never deviates into being a drama or romance with the gun-play, fights and mayhem lovingly rendered. The characters may be stock-standard archetypes, but ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ isn’t about characters it’s just high-octane escapist fun. Director Chad Stahelski skilfully dives into the seedy, gritty world in which Wick thrives with New York’s mean streets shown in loving detail.

Any sequel needs to enhance its predecessor which ‘John Wick: Chapter 2’ effortlessly does. It builds on the environment of danger where friends can instantly become foes. This element adds unpredictability to the story ensuring genuine viewer engagement. Reeves does well as the world-weary assassin wanting to escape his current existence. He is the best out of a cast occasionally delivering overly silly performances. It’s the action everyone wants and it definitely reaches a high standard. Each encounter is as bloody and brutal as needed with the stunt work and pacing top notch. These elevate the emotions the screenplay conveys with physical moments just as powerful as the spoken ones.

Admirers of strong action films with depth will enjoy the latest John Wick outing. It’s tough and uncompromising and crafts more additions to its mythology. A third chapter wouldn’t be unwelcome with Reeves’ place on the action hero pantheon assured.

Rating out of 10: 7

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

The legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table at Camelot has been enduring. Dozens of books and films have been created from a story continually capturing people’s imaginations. It’s a tale that can be everything from romance, action to high drama. Director Guy Richie goes for the middle option with his take on the King Arthur mythology. Unfortunately it’s not especially thrilling with the elements making the tale so enduring apparently missing in the halls of Camelot.

Running the back streets of Londinium with his crew, Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) thinks life can’t throw him anymore surprises. Discovering a stone with a sword called Excalibur stuck inside, his existence is changed forever. Drawing it from its stony confines, Arthur becomes embodied with great powers. Helped by the enigmatic Guinevere (Astrid Berges-Frisbey), Arthur learns to master his abilities and discovers his royal lineage. Forced to go up against evil tyrant Vortigern (Jude Law), Arthur deals with past tragedies while reclaiming the crown enabling him to become King.

‘King Arthur: Legend of the Sword’ fails due to its casting. That doesn’t mean the actors but its director. Fitting the right director for the material is crucial in allowing a movie to achieve success. Sadly Guy Richie is completely mis-cast as its helmer. Utilising his usual fast-editing tricks and filming the story like one of his typical English gangster movies, Richie fails to delve into the tale’s majesty and splendour. For such a rich background as the King Arthur story, Richie uses little of it with minuscule flair gone into crafting anything wondrous.

Whilst the ‘grim and gritty’ version of the King Arthur legend has been done before, ‘King Arthur: Legend of the Sword’ is the worst of them. Lifeless with bored-looking performances, watching becomes a chore. Although the infrequent action scenes are technically well handled, they are done with zero passion or grasp of the character’s motivations. The CGI is spectacular as expected but that means nothing in a movie failing to capture the imagination or add anything new.

‘King Arthur: Legend of the Sword’ is dull, uninspired and ultimately pointless. Supposedly the first film of a franchise, this mis-step ensures that won’t happen. It proves the point that not respecting the source material can backfire and hopefully a better take on the wonderful Arthurian legend is made soon to erase memories of this poorly realised adaptation.

Rating out of 10: 3